Pando

See me on TV, getting mildly outraged about DNA grabbing, Softbank and Amazon

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on September 7, 2017

From The Disruption Desk

This past Sunday, I finally appeared as a panelist on NBC’s Press:Here, hosted by Scott McGrew.

I say “finally” because, while this was my first time appearing on camera for the show, I’ve hovered in the shadows behind those same for maybe twenty other episodes whenever Sarah has been a panellist.

In the unlikely event you’re unfamiliar with Press:Here, it's a tech version of Meet The Press (hence its Sunday morning scheduling, right after MTP). Two reporters join McGrew to grill tech leaders, CEOs and other prominent figures.

Sometimes (i.e. when Sarah is on, and/or the subject is Uber) the grilling can be fierce, other times it’s a little more collegial. But it’s consistently the most entertaining and best informed tech-related show by a mainstream broadcaster.  (You’re welcome to add your own joke here about why such a distinguished show would want me as a guest.)

This week, my co-panellist was TechCrunch’s Katie Roof and the companies for discussion were: 1) InterGenX - a company, apparently named by Douglas Coupland, which builds a tool that lets police instantly run tests on suspects’ DNA; 2) Kabbage - the small business loans startup that just raised a quarter billion dollars from Softbank; and 3) Amazon.

Infuriatingly, clips from the episode are online but aren’t embeddable, so you’ll have to make do with the following summaries and links.

In the InterGenX segment, I was probably at my most aggravated. Surely, I suggested to founder Bob Schueren, easier DNA testing means more people (including many who turn out to be innocent) will have their DNA taken and stored. As you’ll see in the clip, Schueren insisted that was a matter for local lawmakers. All his device does, he argued, was makes the existing rules easier to enforce. Also troubling, though, was his explanation of the analysis process: While InterGenX can take an instant DNA reading, the results are still sent to the FBI for standard processing. This prompted McGrew to ask whether suspects would be left languishing in their cells in the meantime. You can see Schueren’s answer, and the rest of the discussion, here.

Kabbage is a company I know, and honestly care, little about. They seem to be doing fine, as evidenced by their windfall from Softbank. Softbank, on the other hand, fascinates me. You could copy and paste their corporate history, and investment strategy, as the prologue to a Michael Crichton book and nobody would think it out of place. Then there’s the matter of their insane valuations (WeWork is valued at $1bn per desk, I said, prompting Roof to assure viewers that I was exaggerating) and the fact they’re keeping companies from going public, thus further inflating the bubble. Aren’t they just bad for Silicon Valley? The full segment is here.

Finally, Amazon. Or specifically WholeFoodsAmazon - where now you can get cheap avocados from the same company that lets its workers boil almost to death. Huzzah! That segment here.